A UKRAINIAN woman who helped bring refugees fleeing the Russian invasion together in West Devon has been awarded a civic award.

Tatiana Kovalchuk, of Tavistock, received the West Devon Borough Council Mayoral Award at a ceremony in the civic offices with others who were given the annual awards for service over the 2023/24 term of mayor Cllr Lynn Daniel.

The award recognises that Tatiana has been central to the success of Ukrainian refugees becoming part of the community while being hosted by families welcoming them into their homes. She has helped organise many community events which have brought disparate Ukrainians together as a community.

Tatiana Kovalchuk receives a WDBC mayoral award from Cllr Mandy Ewings.
Tatiana Kovalchuk receives a WDBC mayoral award from council leader Cllr Mandy Ewings. (Submitted)

John Harding, a host for a Ukrainian family, said: “Tatiana has made a major contribution to the organisation of many events.”

Among events Tatiana has been involved in were the Tavistock Carnival procession, Lions Club Fun Day in the Meadows; a Ukrainian food stall and ragdoll workshops; Ukrainian Christmas service at St Michael’s Church, Brentor; the first Russian invasion anniversary vigil in 2023 in Bedford Square and the St Eustachius’ Church Christmas Tree Festival.

Cllr Andy Hutton, Tavistock mayor last year who has hosted a Ukrainian refugee, said: “Tatiana was already in Tavistock when the Russian Ukrainian war started. She very quickly told some of her friends in the Ukraine what a wonderful place it was to live in and with her help and encouragement several families came to Tavistock very early in the conflict.

“She is a fluent English speaker and has a lot of energy and she, with some of the families who hosted in the early days in Tavistock, managed together to unravel the complexities of the refugee visa system. Some of these families have now been in Tavistock for more than two years and have become valuable members of our community.

“Tatiana herself has continued to work tirelessly in support of all the Ukrainians in Tavistock, organising events and helping in any way she can. Her pleasant way of working has been a great help to many of the host families, including myself, and it was very clear that certainly Tatiana’s brilliant work needed to be appreciated formally.”

Tatiana Kovalchuk (far left) received her mayoral award for many community events, including the Ukrainian Christmas at Brent Tor Church.
Tatiana Kovalchuk received her mayoral award for organising community events for Ukrainians in Tavistock, including the Ukrainian Christmas at St Michael’s Church on Brent Tor, pictured. She is on the left. (Submitted)

Tatiana said: “I do believe that each of us bears the responsibility of being an ambassador of our country. Ukrainian families are very grateful to the Tavistock community for giving us opportunities to be included in a variety of events, in the local social life and to learn new traditions, embrace British values and culture.

“When the Lions Club of Tavistock invited our Ukrainian community to take part in the carnival over the last two years, and to take part in the fun day in the Meadows, some of us thought we should not – the war was still on. But it felt great to walk the streets of Tavistock and see people smile at us, greet us. Not only has the Christian community of Tavistock been offering unwavering support to us, but they have also been engaging Ukrainians in many social events.”